Friday, 27 February 2009

Why journalism

Many of my gang come into work like someone's shit in their cereals.
So they earn bad money, they work long hours, they are the lowest profession on the food chain (debatably drawn between estate agents, politicians and now wonderfully bankers) but, shit, it's a fucking great job.

Why journalism. It's simple, it's the only honest, dishonest job in the world. It's the only job you can still make your own.

Wannabe a scumbag? Writing for the nationals is good. Fancy an ethical do-good life? Write for a local paper. Want to write sniping, nasty articles about people you are never likely to meet? Celebrity feature writing works for you. Parasitical tendencies? Death knocks are the drug of choice. Standing up for the little man? Get involved in community reporting. Like watching footy. Sport (not a real job tbh)

Journalism. It's a great life!
Cheer the fuck up!

Logic problems

I read recently that, despite a huge, ridiculous, almost criminal amount of sackings within our industry, the number of people signing up for journalism degrees rises by 24 per cent.
I have no idea what these wannabe journalists are being told, but surely they must read the three main web sites devoted to journalism. Redundancies, closures, gloom, doom and crap campaigns.
Surely they must realise the chances of getting a job have gone from fat chance to virtually fuck all.
So why do they still come?
Fuck knows. I can only think that either the NCTJ needs to keep making cash or we have another bunch of new journos who fail to pay attention to the outside world.
Read some shit about journalism jobs you mongs!

Old skool/new skool

The old guys - and I am starting to become one - have rose tinted glasses. They were just as lazy, just as sneaky, just as unmotivated, as the young 'uns. In fact, more so. Don't forget these guys (I use the omnisexual version of the word) didn't have a web edition. A lot of them didn't have mobiles. No internet. No extra pressures. No money - admittedly, but only one real job. Write for the newspaper.
They also didn't have the same attitude to lunchtime drinking- or in some cases early morning drinking - as your bosses do now. Rolling in pissed as a fart after lunch (or not rolling in at all) was the norm.
Five decent stories a week, a few down pages, nibs and done. Week's work, roll on the weekend.
Except this doesn't really tell the whole story.
Without the web, without mobiles, without email, journalism changes.
No google alerts for every paper or media outlet that mentions your patch; no emails from charities, companies, sources, spies, press offices or pundits. No way of getting a steer from the desk on a job on your moby. No ability to ping pics from other areas by email. No real way of searching cuttings except for a trip to your own (or more likely) the local reference library.
You relied on three things - ring ins (unlikely) walk-ins (yeah, right) or contacts.
Contacts are king and something young reporters don't yet comprehend. This biz ain't what you know, it's who you know. The more contacts you have the more stories you will get. Full stop.
Someone gets run over? You know a man, who knows a guy, who knows the cousin. A murder? You find his best friend through a pub landlord you know. A guy wins £100k on the lottery? With enough good contacts you will find him/her and hopefully they will end up being a right criminal scrote.
Build up, cultivate and cherish your contacts. Never give them up easy, keep them tight, keep them secret. A good contact can last you a career - they get promotions too. A good PC can become a sublime DCI in a few short years. Councillors become MPs, become government ministers, teachers become heads, soldiers become colonels.
Build a relationship, burn only your bad ones and contacts become a journos greatest asset.
Old skool.

Standards slipping?

It's hard to know what's really happening in the newsroom in terms of the quality of journalism and the trainees we are getting. So many journalists (I prefer reporters) of a certain age hark back to a golden age. An age of flawless reporting by three-week-in juniors, trainees bringing down the heads of councils, zero grammatical errors from a band of hardened 16-year-old news gatherers.
Obviously this is all a bag of absolute cock.
There has always been bad journalists, useless, lazy, greedy, spiteful, retarded journalists. This industry is and, I suspect, always will be populated by crap, stupid, idiotic reporters.
But will, oh ye of little faith, also be the home of earnest, honest, brave, determined, motivated, clever, sexy?, funny, smart and talented young hacks.
But the basics are missing.
I always ask (tell) my lot to have an awareness of the things that go on around them. The big stories nationally. The big issues locally. Who's shagging who in the office? It's all important. Information is power. No matter how small the snippet.
But most of the new guys have no idea what is in their own paper. They look at what they have written and how it looks and that's that. I see their eyes glaze over as soon as their own, often pitiful, news list are dragged out as conference. In an industry dominated by petty rivalry, jealousy and terrible, terrible bitterness, if juniors have little or no interest in what their own collegaues are doing, how, in the name of holy fuck, are they expected to know what is happening in the real world?
These young turks of journalism, these purveyors of truth, these bastions of all that is good in this dark, dark industry haven't even got the basic interest in what they actually do.
If they don't buy and read their own products why should anyone else?


I have been meaning to write this blog for some time.
Me, I am a jobbing hack, front line news man, boss and bitch and bully for some 20 years. I have worked on locals, regional dailies, nationals, agencies and for myself.
No ages (below 40) no names (call me Blunt) no pack drill (UK based).
Now I am back on the locals - a medium I have always had great respect for. The true coal face of truth, the place where nationals come for their tales.
I won't name the paper but we have a newsy patch and we cover many stories the nationals chase.
We have competition as well - another two papers in fact - something unheard of in many areas.
I have a great, committed staff of both juniors and experienced reporters. We work hard, we believe truly in what we do and the responsibility and powers we hold. I love my job but things ain't right in the world of news.
I want to use this blog to vent my spleen, to become my online therapist, my new best friend. A cathartic mix of bile, venom and hate. A written rant of disjointed drivel.
Just exactly the sort of great traditions the hack's night out were based on.
I hope you find something worth reading in here.
If you don't - fuck ya.